From the new paper "The Consequences of Expanding Domestic and Transnational Drug Trafficking Organizations for Guatemala and for Hemispheric Drug Policy," by Charles D. Brockett (May 2012).
There are two contradictory trends at work in contemporary Guatemala regarding DTOs - [Drug Trafficking Organizations]. On the one hand there has been a fragmentation of control, in part as a consequence of the government scoring some notable arrests of leading drug kingpins. Indeed, it is important to note, as will be discussed later, that both Guatemala and the U.S. have enjoyed some important successes recently in the War on Drugs. Picking off kingpins, however, can be a mixed blessing . . . violence often increases with DTO fragmentation.
The author writes: "Some readers undoubtedly will find more detail than they wish" (p. 2). Actually it is the most concrete paper I have seen so far on this issue.
Why in Guatemala?
Colombian DTOs began seriously seeking routes for their cocaine to the U.S. through Guatemala and Mexico in the mid and late 1980s as U.S. pressure in Florida succeeded in raising the costs of more direct access across the Caribbean. Guatemala's attractions for narcotraficantes were concisely identified by a top DEA official in his 2002 congressional testimony as: "location, porous borders, sparsely populated coastlines, highway infrastructure and ongoing corruption problems" (U.S. House, "Guatemala": 61). By the early 1990s between 15 to 25 percent of Colombian cocaine reaching the U.S. first passed through Guatemala; by the end of the decade it had reached almost half (Smyth, "New Kingdom," "Guatemala's"). One major route utilized fast boats from Colombia up the Pacific coast to El Salvador from where drugs were trucked hidden among produce to Guatemala; a parallel route did the same on the Caribbean side up to Honduras. On the Caribbean side, were also frequent flights by small aircraft to hundreds of landings strips in the rural east of either Guatemala or Honduras. If sent to Honuras, the cargo was again often moved by produce trucks up to Guatemala.10